During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, thousands of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts were removed from libraries and monasteries all over Europe, and their folios were cut out and sold.

Layers of Parchment, Layers of Time: Reconstructing Manuscripts 800 – 1600, is an interdisciplinary  day-long symposium that will explore various issues surrounding the complex subject of manuscript reconstruction. Our goal is to foster dialogues—between different disciplines—on how to approach dismembered manuscripts from intellectual and practical perspectives.

The symposium will features panels, that are composed thematically rather than by academic discipline, a round table discussion, a keynote, and a viewing of individual manuscript leaves from a Cambridge collection.

The symposium will take place on Friday 23 June 2017 and will be held at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.

Dr David Rundle will give the keynote paper, titled ‘Utopia, Babel and Dystopias, past and present’.


We invite the submission of papers on the following topics (although most certainly not limited to):

The manuscript as an object made in layers over time
Digital reconstruction of manuscripts
New approaches to understanding reception
Methodologies for tracing lost/stolen fragments and leaves
Methodologies for reconstructing manuscripts
Economic, political, and legal consequences of reconstructing manuscripts
Reconstructed manuscripts in their original contexts
Modern methods of preservation for loose fragments/leaves
The art market as a means for fragment/leaf distribution
The role of collectors (public institutions and private individuals)

We encourage graduate students as well as established scholars to apply.

Papers will be scheduled for 20 minutes. Please submit your abstract, of no more than 300 words to Dr. Kathryn Rudy and Stephanie Azzarello at
reconstructing [dot] mss [dot] cambridge [at] gmail [dot] com
by 1 February 2017.

Along with your abstract please include your name, institution, paper title and brief biography. We strongly encourage you to consider your paper as a performance, rehearse it well, and to avoid reading directly from the page, if possible. Successful applicants with be notified by 10 February 2017.


The Keynote Speaker

Dr. David Rundle (University of Essex), is an historian and palaeographer, with interests ranging across medieval libraries, the manuscript evidence for the circulation of Renaissance ideas and the early modern destruction of manuscripts. He is the co-author, with Ralph Hanna, of the forthcoming  Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts, to c. 1600, of Christ Church, Oxford. He also has a forthcoming monograph with Cambridge University Press on the Renaissance Reform of the Book and Britain. He has a long-standing interest in manuscript fragments, and has complied the addenda for the 2004 reprint of Neil Ker’s classic: Pastedowns in Oxford Bindings.

More recently, he initiated the Lost Manuscripts project, which has the ambitious aim of becoming a union catalogue for manuscript fragments in the British Isles. This project was launched under the auspices of the Centre for Bibliographical History at the University of Essex, of which he is co-director.



The Organizers

Kathryn Rudy (Kate) is a senior lecturer at the University of St Andrews. She earned her Ph.D. from Columbia University in Art History and also holds a Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies from the University of Toronto. Before going to St. Andrews, she was Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the National Library of The Netherlands (The Hague). Her research focuses on the reception and original function of manuscripts, especially those manufactured in the Low Countries. She has pioneered the use of the densitometer to measure the grime that original readers deposited in their books. On this topic she gave a TED talk.

Her publications include: Rubrics, Images and Indulgences in Late Medieval Netherlandish Manuscripts (Leiden: Brill, 2017); Piety in Pieces: How medieval readers customized their manuscripts (Open Book Publishers, 2016). Postcards on Parchment: The Social Lives of Medieval Books (Yale University Press, 2015); and Virtual Pilgrimages in the Convent: Imagining Jerusalem in the Late Middle Ages (Brepols, 2011). Many of her articles are available online.

Among her current projects, she is writing a book about prints that have been cut out of Netherlandish manuscripts. She has spent over a decade reassembling such manuscripts, which were largely cut apart in the nineteenth century.


Stephanie Azzarello is a third-year PhD candidate in the faculty of History of Art at the University of Cambridge. She is being co-supervised by Dr. Donal Cooper (University Lecturer, History of Art) and Dr. Stella Panayotova (Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, The Fitzwilliam Museum). She received her Masters from the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto, and her BA from the University of Toronto (Art History/Anthropology/German Literature).

Her dissertation focuses on a now-dismembered series of choir books made for the Camaldolese monasteries of San Michele and San Mattia a Murano, near Venice by the so-called Master of the Murano Gradual  in the early decades of the fifteenth century. As very little primary documentation or key works survive from this period, these manuscripts serve as crucial extant evidence for the dynamic artistic environment that existed in Venice during the early Quattrocento.

Her thesis will reconstruct these volumes by tracing and cataloguing all know cuttings (in both public and private collections) and will probe the relationship between the manuscripts’ illuminations and other visual sources such as frecsos, panel paintings, and altarpieces, as well as, manuscripts. She is also investigating the relationship between the Master of the Murano Gradual and other key illuminators active in Venice and abroad during this period, such as Cristoforo Cortese, Belbell da Pavia, and Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci.



Register for the symposium

Although registering for the symposium is free, we ask that you register so that we can plan the catering accurately.